I might not have had cancer?

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A panel convened by the U.S. National Cancer Institute posted recommendations in the July 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association calling for an independent, broad group under the auspice of an  organization  such as the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies to  review and  rename less-risky lesions and growths currently identified as cancer.  “The goal going forward is to  personalize screening strategies, and focus  screening policies on the conditions  that are most likely to result in  aggressive illness and death,” said Laura  Esserman, director of breast  care at  the University of California, San Francisco’s cancer center.

My DCIS was caught before it became invasive.  But the same data causing doctors to doubt whether we as patients understand our risks is now prompting them for similar reasons to reclassify my (fill in new description of the abnormal cells in my ducts that could break through and kill me) as a pre-cancerous condition, abnormality, what?  That’s well and good if the science exists to quantify my risk of invasive cancer.  However, my first surgeon (assigned by my health group) said if it was his wife, he’d recommend a double mastectomy with reconstruction and that additional imaging wouldn’t tell us anything of value.  Then, without explanation, he quit.  I got assigned a new surgeon.  This surgeon listened and explained.  He ordered more imaging that did give us information on the extent of my DCIS. He said I could choose mastectomy (single or double) but that the data also would support me if I prefered a partial mastectomy, radiation and Tamoxifen.  I wanted to keep as much of my original parts as reasonable.  I chose the lesser surgery.  Three and a half years later there are more side effects than I expected but no cancer.  So far, so good.  I have mammograms twice a year, I see my oncologist twice a year,  I see my radiologist every year,  I see my GP every year,  I see my dermatologist every year (don’t want skin cancer to join the party), I see my opthalmologist every year (Tamoxifen has a small % of vision side effects).  Throw in the dentist and an occasional visit to my surgeon and I’ve pretty much got a monthly visit to a health care professional.

So, check back with me next year.  By then I’ll still have scars, side-effects, medical copays for my monthly visits, debts from my procedures, but if one panel of doctors prevails…I might never had had cancer at all!

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That time again…

I scheduled my mammogram right after Thanksgiving this year. Even though I tell myself, “I know what you’re doing!” I still generally start about a week out from these twice yearly rituals getting worked up about cancer again. I play over my diagnosis from my first mammogram, I relive that particularly horrible week following the first mammogram after I finished treatment for breast cancer when suspicious calcifications sent me back for a biopsy (fortunately all was benign) and once when the notes from the screener left me thinking the cancer was back and I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to talk to me to confirm or deny….but it was nothing. So, as to inoculate myself to the bad news I might get, I run through all the possibilities in my head and remind myself that I have everything I need in life and cancer cannot touch that security. I know who I am in God’s family and in my world. But still, scheduling my mammo when I will have very little time to worry because these days are filled to overflowing with family and thanksgiving and love and sharing then shopping and eating and laughing and working was a very good idea.

Who am I?

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In July, 2010 a routine mammogram revealed microcalcifications in my right breast. I was called back for a higher resolution image which showed a cluster of microcalcifications which the technician declared a “suspicious” area and I was scheduled for a stereotactic biopsy. Still, she said that most biopsies of this nature came back normal. Although nervous about the procedure, I was sure everything would be fine. Two days later a lab worker called and read the results: Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS) intermediate with central necrosis. Cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you are not alone. According to the National Cancer Institute 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life meaning over 2 ½ million women in America today have heard those life-changing words, “You have breast cancer”. [http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html#incidence-mortality]

As I faced my cancer diagnosis and began researching my disease, treatments and recovery there were many helpful websites and organizations. However, sorting through all the available information to gleen really helpful material was often overwhelming. Dealing with cancer became a second job.   The website BreastCancerClub.com and this blog are created to be a  resource for finding materials of value to you in your battle for health and to explore life beyond cancer.